Author: Ali Phaneuf
On October 11th Special Olympics Pennsylvania athlete Ernie Roundtree will be racing in the 125th Boston Marathon. Why? Because it's been a lifelong dream of his. How? Because of one special game changer: retired Mansfield police Sgt. and Special Olympics Massachusetts' Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) executive board member, Larry Crosman.
When Larry attended the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Washington State, he had no idea that the experience would bring him a lifelong friend. Larry was an escort for the Flame of Hope at the USA Games when he met Ernie, and it was while they were on a bus together that Ernie explained that one of his biggest goals was to run in the Boston Marathon. When Larry returned to Massachusetts, he immediately began to think of how he could make this a reality.
''My son at the time was a Hopkinton police officer, which is where the race starts, so I decided to talk to their union since they had a couple of bibs," said Larry. ''They explained that they normally raise $5,000, so we started a 'Bring Ernie to Boston' campaign. Through the campaign we were able to raise over $5,000 to help out the Hopkinton Police Association, and Ernie was able to run."
After taking a hiatus in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ernie will return to Boston as member of the Special Olympics Massachusetts Xtra Mile Marathon Team. How's he getting here, and who will be cheering him on? Larry of course . . . and his entire family.
"I'll take the drive down to Pennsylvania and pick up Ernie the Thursday before the race, and bring him back the Wednesday after. So it will be a week-long trip for him," said Larry. ''We'll get him settled in Hopkinton, and then we'll all head to Boston to meet him at the finish line."
When Ernie received his Special Olympics Massachusetts Xtra Mile shirt, he grinned from ear to ear and sent a picture over to Larry, who explained that Ernie was just glowing'--full of excitement for the big race on October 11th.
''Special Olympics Massachusetts has done more for me than I have for it. You become friends with the athletes and their families," said Larry. ''Ernie doesn't just come up for road races. He's been up at least one or two other times to stay with me and my family, and we've gone down to visit him in Pennsylvania. He's just an amazing person to meet and to call him a friend--he's definitely an inspiration to me."